Tattoos in retreat: The Army sets new rules for would-be recruits

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Every picture tells a story, but when the pictures are tattoos it's not only traditionally minded parents who are concerned. It's also the U.S. Army.

As the venerable armed forces newspaper Stars and Stripes reported, the Army is about to issue strict new rules governing tattoos, grooming and uniforms, although details only about tattoos have been confirmed.

In visits to soldiers in Afghanistan, Sgt. Major of the Army Raymond Chandler said new recruits won't be allowed to have tattoos that show below the elbows and knees or above the neckline.

Current soldiers won't be affected with one exception: All soldiers will be barred from having tattoos that are racist, sexist or extremist. Soldiers will be required to pay for the removal of any tattoo that violates the policy.

For the military, these restrictions make sense. Although tattoos are now common in the civilian world and have long been favored by warriors, the Army takes great pains to require soldiers to look smart at least on the parade ground, with pressed uniforms, short hair and polished boots. A tatty tat can ruin that look in the time it takes to salute.

The new rules, expected to take effect in 30 to 60 days, apply only to the Army; other branches of the military have their own standards. But for some parents, the regulations will be the cavalry riding to the rescue by providing another reason for their kids not to get tattoos.

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